Wimberley makes great products. However, many companies make great products, so how do they distinguish themselves from the competition? How do they stand out? For me it's all about customer service. I've used Wimberley products for a long time - lens plates, arca clamps, macro arms, and of course their famous gimbal tripod head. None of it has ever gone wrong before, and so I've never had cause to contact the company. Then last October I detected a wobble in the tripod head. It had been a while since I last used it, and after the Siberian Stonechat on Shetland I then didn't use it again until the start of 2013, and so promptly forgot about the wobble and continued using my monopos - which by the way has a Wimberley clamp atop it. This year, when I decided I'd try and take my photography to the next level, I turned to my tripod as one way of perhaps helping me make that step. The wobble was still there - it could be eliminated by locking down the whole head, but when you wanted to pan, back it came. Annoying, and I needed to solve it.
I contacted Wimberley directly, and explained the symptoms. They wrote back straight away, asking a few questions, and also where I had purchased it, the serial number and that kind of thing. The serial number was easy, but where I bought it, had I filled the waranty document in - not a chance. I hadn't the faintest recollection of where I got it, nor could I find any paperwork. No matter, said Wimberley, we stand by our product. They would send me, they said, a new central screw and washer set that their technicians felt would fix it. Gratis. With no proof of purchase or anything. Furthermore, if it didn't fix the problem, all I had to do was to send the whole unit back and they would simply replace it. Just like that. I mean, these things cost £500!
So today I was pleased to find a small and neat package on the front door step. Inside was the promised screw, and the two washers along with a step-by-step guide to performing the repair. Also very helpfully a complete parts diagram of the entire head. It took five minutes to whip out the old screw and washers (which by the way looked identical to the new ones!) and replace them with the new ones. A couple of minutes to adjust the tension and I was all done. Wobble gone, smooth panning back. Fantastic. I have no doubt that they would have sent me a brand new head had I needed it, but it wasn't necessary and I'm back in business with a fully functional head. The whole process, start to finish, took no more than a couple of weeks - Wimberley are based in the US. I am what they call a satisified customer.
Here's a photo of a Wimberley head in action from the weekend, with fellow London photographer Mick S behind the camera. If you see somebody with a long lens taking photos of birds, they are almost guaranteed to be using a Wimberley. Lenses that are pain in the backside to carry become completely weightless, it's a fabulous bit of kit. There are various knock-offs available, various copies and slight alterations on the design. They might work, they might not. But what of the customer service? Will it be quite as good? I very much doubt it, and that's why I'll always use the real deal.